Search results for: 'survival-skills'

  • Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery Bag

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    Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery bag

    Any of you with diaper-age children already know the crucial importance of keeping plastic grocery bags on hand at all times. As a dedicated bag toter, I found myself vindicated this week by no less than Backpacker Magazine, whose online slideshow, “Survive With a Plastic Bag,” has got me thinking of other uses for this ubiquitous resource.

    Backpacker’s six tips include some predictable, but still helpful waterproofing ideas, as well as some not-so-predictable ones, like using the plastic bag as a windsock or a whistle. I’m more than convinced I need a handful of these in my hiking pack and emergency kits. But just a little more digging unlocks the further utility of the plastic bag. Here’s just a sampling:

    • Survival Common Sense lists a bunch of different kinds of plastic bags—everything from Ziplocs to garbage can liners—and shows what you can do with them. I like the wallet-sized fire starter, in particular.
    • Outdoor Life’s Survivalist blog has a great little write-up on how to use a standard plastic grocery bag to collect water in the wild. Hint: it doesn’t even require digging a hole!
    • The Master Woodsman (we don’t know who he is, but we like his site) dedicates a whole article to the big, black garbage bag. His super impressive list of uses for the bag includes some shockers. On your own, you might have come up with the idea of making a shelter or lining a sleeping bag with a garbage bag. But would you have known that you can make a mattress, strong cord, or even glue out of one? Yeah, me neither.
    • In possibly the biggest mind-blower, this YouTube clip shows how to boil water in a plastic bag! I’m not going to pretend to understand why the bag doesn’t melt or ignite, but the guy in the video successfully hard-boils an egg in one over a bed of blazing coals. In a plastic bag!


    If you’re still not convinced (Really? What does it take, people?), check back on these previous posts to see still more ingenious ways to put plastic bags to use for emergency preparedness.


    Have we missed anything? What other emergency or survival uses do you have for these fantastic plastic bags?


    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Magazine Ben Fullerton

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: DIY, Survival, skills

  • DIY Bow and Arrow


    Once a weapon of myths and legends, the bow and arrow can now be found in any sporting goods or outdoors store for bow hunting enthusiasts . . . And while there is a large selection of bows and arrows to choose from, have you ever wondered what it’d be like to make your own handcrafted bow?

    In a survival situation, knowing how to make your own bow and arrow could help you get food to feed yourself and your family—if you run out of MREs and Mountain House pouches and have to hunt. Also, if you know how to make a bow and arrow, you’ll have a back-up if yours breaks or you can’t take it with you when you evacuate. Knowing how to make a bow and arrow will make you more self-sufficient.

    So let’s put another notch in your survival tool belt. Here’s a basic how-to that will help you make a hunt-worthy bow and arrow set.

    Survival Bow Instructions

    The folks at came up with, what they call a “quickie” bow tutorial for beginning bow crafters. The reason why it’s called a “quickie” is because it is “made at the time the wood is harvested instead of waiting a year plus for the wood to cure (as is typical for regular bow construction.)”  The advantage is that this is ready to use right away (for survival situations); the down side is that it  may crack or break as it dries out.

    1.      Choosing Wood

    Some of the best woods for making bows include osage orange, yew, ash, black locust, and hickory, though most hardwoods can work (oak, maple, beech). Find a relatively straight 5 foot long (1.5-2 inches in diameter) section of sapling or branch that is free of knots, side branches, and twists. Cut this carefully so not to crack or split the wood.

    2.     Finding the Belly, Back, Handhold, and Limbs

    Stand the stave (the limb you just cut) on the ground and hold loosely with one hand, then push outward lightly on the middle of the bow. The stave will swivel to show you which way it is slightly curved. The outside is the “back” and the inside is the “belly.” Do not touch the back, as it receives most of the tension and damage can cause the bow to break.

     DIY Bow and Arrow

    Photo Courtesy of

    Find the middle and mark out your handhold area (3 inches from the center in both directions). The area above the handhold is the upper limb; the area below is the lower limb.

    3.     Shaping

    Put the bottom tip on your foot and hold the top tip while pushing outward from the belly (only push a few inches). Look at how the limbs bend and observe the areas that do not. Remove wood from the belly of the limbs where they do not bend and leave material where the limb bends a lot (DO NOT REMOVE WOOD FROM THE BACK!). The goal is to get the limbs to bend evenly. Remove material slowly and recheck frequently. The handhold and tips should remain straight or have very little bend.


    4.     Notches for the Bow String

    Once you have achieved even flex throughout the length of the limbs, you can carve small notches on both sides of each tip, being careful not to carve into the back of the bow.  They don’t need to be very deep, only enough to keep a string in place. Tie the bow string on (nylon, sinew, or plant fiber) so there is about 5 to 6 inches between the string and the handhold when the bow is strung. Do not pull back on the string yet.

    DIY Bow and Arrow Photo Courtesy of

     5.     Tillering

    This is the most time intensive part. Hang the bow horizontally on a branch or piece of scrap wood by the handhold. Pull down on the string a few inches and observe how the limbs bend. The limbs should mirror each other. If they do not bend evenly, continue shaping until evenness is achieved. Continue pulling down on the string until you are able to pull it to your draw length with the limbs being even (Your draw length is determined by holding the bow and pulling the string to your upper jaw).

    DIY Bow and Arrow Photo Courtesy of

     You also need to have a draw weight. 25-35 pounds is for small game, 40-60 pounds is for larger animals. Test draw weight by placing a five foot 2x4 piece of lumber vertically on a scale, balance the how on it horizontally (forms a T shape with the handhold resting on the lumber) and pull down on the string to the full draw length. The scale registers the draw weight.


    DIY Bow and Arrow Photo Courtesy of

    6.     Finishing

    You can now use the bow as-is. Do not fire the bow without an arrow. If you want to finish your bow, you can sand the belly smooth and oil it to prevent it from drying out too quickly. You can continually adjust the tiller and oil as necessary.


    Arrow Instructions

    Finished arrows need to be lightweight, yet strong. They also need to be straight, well-fletched (has about 3-5 feathers or other materials at the end to help them “fly”), have the right spine (rigidity), and be the right length for your bow. This arrow tutorial was found at


    photo courtesy of

    Collect branches and straight saplings that are at least 30 inches long and have a diameter between 3/8 and ½ inch. Trim off side branches (or find some without side branches).

    Remember that the extra water of green wood will make the shaft heavier (unless you dry the wood for a couple months). Peel off the bark carefully and carve off any knots or branches. Straighten crooked spots by heating them for 30 seconds over an open flame, bend it a little beyond straight and hold until it cools.

    Cut a notch about ¼ inch deep into the end of the shaft (to attach to the bowstring while shooting). Be careful not to split the arrow. Cut a similar one in the head to receive a stone or metal arrowhead. Make a metal head by grinding and filing thin, flat steel pieces. Stone or glass can be chipped into an arrowhead. Add glue to the notch, insert the arrowhead, and wrap with twine or other fibers. Seal with more glue.

    DIY Bow and Arrow

    Photo courtesy of Sensible Survival Blog

    Fletch the arrow by gathering and splitting bird wing or tail feathers in half (they need to all be from the same side of the bird). Shorten to 4-5 inches and 1/2 inch wide. Space equally around the arrow and glue. Secure with the same cord used on the arrowhead (you can substitute duct tape for feathers in a bind).

    DIY Bow and Arrow

    Photo Courtesy of


    There you have it! Bow and arrows. Have you made some before? What are your tips for making or shooting?


    Additional Tips and Sources

    Survival Mastery: Bow and Arrow

    Field and Stream: Bow and Arrow

    Posted In: Insight, Skills

  • Finding Water in the Wild

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    Finding Water in the Wild

    Imagine being lost in the wild without any water. You’re dizzy, exhausted, and lightheaded—all signs of dehydration. You need water and you need it fast. Staying hydrated becomes even more important during a survival situation when you’re exerting more energy to survive. So if you were lost in the wild, would you know how to find water only using clues and hints from the landscape?

    In the ideal scenario, you’ll probably have water storage or pre-packaged water you can take with you on the go. But let’s say you don’t have that luxury, you’re away from your supply, or you’ve run out of water. Here are our tips for finding water in the wild.

    Signs of Fresh Water

    Although many in search of fresh water in a city or town can resort to filtering and purifying water from fish ponds, finding fresh water in the wild can be trickier. The most obvious place to look for water in the wild is a stream, river, or lake. But let’s say there are no large bodies of water in sight or that you’re, unknowingly, just a few miles away from the nearest water source. You can look for signs in the landscape to help you find that water source. Here’s what you should look for:

    • Low-lying Areas and Valleys: Water always flows downhill and into valley bottoms, so head in that direction. Water naturally drains into valley bottoms.
    • Patches of Green Vegetation: An abundance of lush, green plants is a good sign that a water source is nearby. If you see a patch of vegetation, try digging in that spot. Water may be just below the surface.
    • Animals: Most animals drink in the early morning or late afternoon. You can follow animals or animal tracks to water (just be careful of the type of animal you’re following so you don’t get attacked…). The book Outdoor Survival says, “If the tracks lead downhill and converge (they meet up at a certain point), they could lead to water.”
    • Insects: A large swarm of insects is a good indicator that a water source is nearby. According to the SAS Survival Handbook, “Ants are dependent upon water. A column of ants marching up a tree is going to a small reservoir of water.” Bees are also good indicators that water is nearby.
    • Bird Flight Patterns: If you see birds flying early in the morning in a tight, organized formation, they are probably heading to a water source. Watch their flight patterns and follow them to water.
    • The Sound of Running Water: Ok, I know you’re thinking, “Duh! Of course the sound of water is a sign.” But did you know that if you take a moment to stop and listen intently, you can hear the sound of water from great distances? Taking a moment to listen can help you find fresh water.
    • Muddy Areas: If you find a muddy patch, start digging. Muddy areas are signs of ground water. Dig a hole that’s a foot deep and a foot in diameter and wait. Water will fill the hole. Just remember to filter and purify the water before you drink it.


    How to tell if Water is Safe to Drink

    It’s important to understand that any time you find an “unconventional” water source in the wild it’s best to always purify and filter it. Fresh water springs (think the Swiss Alps) are usually clean and good to drink, but even if you’re at a spring always take caution when drinking from an untreated water source, because

    • Water in the wild could have feces, blood, and other contaminants. Fill your water bottle or container from the main output source of the water instead of getting it from a still pool downstream. Moving water keeps the water from “marinating” and harboring microorganisms
    • Water could be contaminated by chemicals and other pollutants. Check for vegetation and/or signs of animals by the water source. If there aren’t any, it may be contaminated.

    Think of these tips before you decide to drink from a body of untreated water. The best option is, of course, to filter and treat every “found” water source.

    Even if you get desperate and really thirsty, the US Army Survival Manual cautions to never drink . . .

     US Army Survival Manual chart

    Chart courtesy of US Army Survival Manual

     Always Filter and Purify your Water

    When you find a water source, it’s important to find the cleanest water possible. This means that the water is fairly free of turbidity (big floaties). The better your water source, the better your filtered and purified water will be. Also, besides protecting you from contracting any water-borne viruses, starting with the cleanest water possible will maximize the life of your filter.

    A common way to purify water is to boil it to kill any microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, etc.). But boiling may not be ideal if you don’t have the necessary equipment to start a fire or a container to hold your water. You can filter your water using a microfilter like the Katadyn Hiker Pro or Katadyn Hiker. Microfilters block impurities and most microorganisms in your water.

    If you don’t have a microfilter on hand, you can filter water by straining it through a cloth into a cup, water bottle, or large leaf … but filtering it alone will not eliminate viruses, bacteria, and protozoans in the water. You need a way to purify the water as well.

    • Steripen: A Steripen, which purifies water UV light, is great to have on hand. It disrupts the DNA of microbes that could make you sick, purifying your water in seconds. It is small enough to fit in your pocket or daypack. Remember that the water must be clear in order for the Steripen to work (water cannot be full of turbidity—large floaties, branches, leafs, etc.), so pre-filter the water before purifying.
    • Micropur Tablets: You can also use Micropur tablets to purify your water. However, keep in mind that when using Micropur tablets it’s important to follow the instructions on the package. It takes four hours for these tablets to kill 99.9% of all microorganisms in the water. They are effective at protecting you from Cryptosporidium, Giardia, bacteria, and viruses in your water.


    What if I don’t have a Filter or Purifier?

    If you don’t have a way to filter or purify your water, and you’re just trying to find water to survive, the quality of the water may not matter as much to you. Always start with the “cleanest” water source you can find to avoid getting sick. At this point, you’ll have to weigh your chances of getting sick with the possibility of becoming dehydrated.

    You can find the “cleanest” water from the following sources:

    • Moving water. Always go to the output point of a body of moving water. This way, you’ll know the water is clean. Streams are almost always better than ponds because the water is constantly moving and changing.
    • Solar disinfection. Put untreated water (free of turbidity) into clear plastic bottles. Leave the bottle in the sun for about 8hrs. The UV will disinfect the water. This water cannot be stored, but is good for emergencies.
    • Rock Beds. Water moving through rock below the surface is generally very clean when you dig it out and it reaches the surface.
    • Snow runoff. Runoff from snow that runs is generally very clean until it makes contact with the ground or another contaminated area.

    The idea is to find a water source to help you stay hydrated until you can get somewhere with clean, safe water (like your home if you get lost while hiking, or an emergency shelter, etc.).

    5 Water Collection Techniques

    In addition to looking for signs of fresh water, there are ways that you can use the landscape to collect water using condensation, dew, rainwater, and ice/snow. Always try using more than one water collection technique or use a water collection technique and signs in conjunction so that you can have multiple ways of getting water and a way to increase the amount that you find. Check out these five techniques for collecting water in the wild:

    1. Use Condensation from Trees and Branches-- Look for a leafy bush or tree branch that is healthy with vegetation. Tie a plastic bag around the branch using paracord or rope. The evaporation from the plant will create condensation in the bag.


    Wiki how to collect water from branches

     2. Make a Solar Still

    Howstuffworks water still


    • Using plastic sheeting, a shovel, container, drinking tube, and a rock, you can create a solar still—a type of water collection system that uses condensation and the sun to create a water reserve.
    • Look for a moist area that gets a lot of sunlight for most of the day. Dig a bowl-shaped hole that’s three feet across and two feet deep. Adding plants and vegetation to your hole helps to create moisture.
    • Make sure that you create a small hole at the bottom of the bowl-shaped hole to hold your container. Put the container in that small hole and place your drinking hose into the container so that it runs out of the main hole. Lay the plastic sheet over the hole and cover the sides with rocks and soil to keep the plastic in place.
    • Place a rock in the middle of the plastic and let it slide down about 18 inches, right over the top of the container. Add more soil and rocks to the edges of the plastic to keep it in place.
    • The moisture from the ground will create condensation because of the heat of the sun. The condensation will run down the plastic into your water container.

     3. Melt Ice and Snow

    • Melting ice is quicker than melting snow and it will give you more water while using less heat or having to feed a fire or flame.
    • If you do have to use snow, dig down. Outdoor Survival suggests “deeper layers are more granular and provide denser snow.”
    • If you do not have fuel to melt your snow, create compact balls of snow and place them in the sun or next to your body in a waterproof container. Suck on the bottom of the ball after it’s melted a little. Place it back in your waterproof container to allow it to melt more.
    • Remember: Eating ice and snow that aren’t melted into liquid increases the risk for hypothermia. Always melt ice and snow before you use it as a water source.

    4. Rainwater: Rainwater is safe to drink unless it’s been in an area where there was a huge fire or a volcanic eruption. You can collect rainwater in any sort of container you have with you during a survival situation. Also, rocky areas capture a lot of water in depressions. Much of this water stays nearly in these depressions nearly year round. If you want to collect rain water for everyday use, make sure that it’s legal to do so in your city or state first.

    5. Plants

    • Cup-shaped plants and flowers can hold a collection of water
    • Bamboo holds water within its hollow joints
    • Some vines hold drinkable water. However, some vines have poisonous sap in them, so learn which vines are safe for drinking from. Cut a notch in the stem. Let the water drip into your mouth from the stem.
    • Cacti fruit and bodies store water, but again, not all cacti store water that is safe to drink (for example, the multi-fingered cacti in Arizona is poisonous)
    • Many plants hold water at their roots.


    What’s your advice for finding a water source in the wild? Have you ever used any of these tricks?


    - Angela



    Photos courtesy of WikiHow and

    SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in any Climate, on Land or at Sea by John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman

    Outdoor Survival: The Essential Guide to Equipment and Techniques by Garth Hattingh

    The Sense of Survival by J. Allan South

    Posted In: Insight, Skills

  • How to Identify Venomous Snakes in the Wild or at Home

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    Which is venomous and which is harmless?

    A crucial part of preparing for any emergency is developing your prepper skills. This includes expanding your knowledge of the wild. North America is home to thousands of snakes that hide under bushes near your campsite, sit at the edge of hiking trails, and may even saunter through your own backyard. So could you separate the harmless snakes from the dangerous ones? There are four snakes in the U.S. which are deadly venemous. It’s important to understand how to distinguish venomous snakes from harmless ones—a simple skill that could save your life or the life of a loved one. Don’t let a happy day on the trail turn into a tragic emergency by encountering one of four venomous snakes and not understanding their danger.


    Being able to identify venomous snakes is a great skill to develop. The following infographic from shows what features to watch out for:

    How to Identify Poisonous Snakes

    You know it’s venomous if…

    • It has elliptical pupils. A venomous snake will have elliptical, slit-like eyes, resembling a cat, rather than having round pupils.
    • It rattles its tail. If you hear a snake rattling its tail, get yourself away. Rattling is an immediate sign that you may be in danger of crossing paths with a rattlesnake. Often, harmless snakes will make a rattling sound by dragging their tail through dry leaves, but it’s not worth getting a closer look to see if the snake is dangerous or not.
    • It has a broad, triangular head. Venomous snakes typically have broad, triangular heads. This may sound odd because most snake heads look similar, but the difference in shape is seen near the snake’s jaw. A venomous snake will have a bulbous head with a skinny neck because of the position of the snake’s venom sacks underneath its jaw. Harmless snakes have a more gradual sloping jaw because they don’t have venom sacks.
    • It has a heat sensing pit. This is a feature that you may not be able to see very well from a distance. The heat sensing pit sits between the eye and nose of venomous snakes. Getting too close to a snake to look for this pit is not a good idea. This sensor is mostly seen on vipers.
    • It has a colorful pattern: Generally, most solid colored snakes are harmless. The more colorful and patterned a snake, the more careful around it you should be. Although there are always exceptions to these rules such as the Black Mamba that lives in southern and eastern Africa.
    • It behaves a certain way: Snakes act differently from one another. For example, Cottonmouths (or Water Moccasins) and harmless water snakes act differently from one another when they swim. A harmless water snake will swim through the water with just its head poking above the surface. A venomous snake, however, will let its entire buoyant body float along the water. Studying up on different snake behaviors can help you identify a harmless and a harmful snake from a distance.

    If you do stumble upon a snake, try to determine whether or not it’s venomous from a distance. Don’t try to get close enough to see their eyes, head shape, or heat-sensing pits—just avoid them. Just like with every rule, there are always rule-breakers—and the coral snake breaks all of the rules except for being brightly-colored and patterned.  See below for more information about the four venomous snakes that inhabit the United States.

    Snake Types


    How to Identify Poisonous Snakes

    Photo Courtesy of

    The Rattlesnake is the most widely recognized venomous snake in the country. You can easily identify a rattlesnake by the rattling sound it makes as it shakes the rings at the end of its tail. Rattlesnakes can strike out to 2/3 their body length to reach their prey and deliver a venomous bite. A rattlesnake’s hemotoxic venom (which causes blood poisoning) travels through the bloodstream, destroying tissue and degenerating organs while causing swelling, blood clots, internal bleeding, and intense pain. Typically, Rattlesnakes will only bite if they feel threatened. If a rattlesnake bite is treated immediately and the venom is removed, you are more likely to survive the attack.  

    Editor's Note: There is a mini, "horned" relative of the rattlesnake that is important to watch out for, too--the North American sidewinder. Typically living in the deserts of North America, these snakes aren't lethal to humans (due to their small size), but are definitely still venomous. They hide in animal burrows or bury themselves in the sand and primarily come out to hunt at night. You can recognize a sidewinder by the "horns" that sit above it's eyes. These "horns" are actually thought to be an adaptation to protect the snakes eyes from the desert sands. If bitten by a sidewinder, seek medical attention immediately. For more information about sidewinders, visit Desert Animals.


    How to Identify Poisonous Snakes

    Photo Courtesy of

      The Copperhead is one of the most common venomous snakes in the eastern United States. These snakes are a type of pit viper (fast, quick-tempered, and usually nocturnal) whose bites cause severe pain which can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks. Although a pit viper, the Copperhead is the least toxic and rarely fatal. Copperheads are generally nocturnal creatures, but are excellent at camouflage during the day. If a Copperhead is caught off guard, instead of fleeing (as most snakes do) it will freeze in place. So keep an eye out so you don’t accidentally step on one. Copperheads can produce enough venom to kill a human if they see one as prey; but usually they’ll just give a warning bite if they feel threatened and inject little venom.   Cottonmouth:

    How to Identify Poisonous Snakes

    Photo Courtesy of

      The Cottonmouth (also known as a Water Moccasin) is a more dangerous version of the Copperhead. Unlike the Copperhead, who freezes to camouflage itself when caught off guard, the Cottonmouth will stand its ground—and its bite is more serious than the Copperhead’s. Cottonmouths produce a cytotoxic poison, which prohibits the blood from clotting while it destroys tissue and leads to hemorrhaging. A Cottonmouth’s bite can easily be fatal.   Coral Snake:

    How to Identify Poisonous Snakes

    Photo Courtesy of

    The coral snake breaks all the rules—with a unique appearance from the other venomous snakes commonly found in the US. Unlike average venomous snakes, coral snakes don’t have triangular heads, heat sensors, or elliptical pupils, but its color gives it away: Black and red stripes separated by yellow lines. There are other “copycat” snakes that look similar to a coral snake with these same three colors. To help you remember, try learning this mneumonic device: “Red on yellow, killer fellow; red on black, safe from attack.” This snake is the most toxic species found in the U.S. The coral snake has powerful neurotoxin venom meaning it can shut down your nervous system, make your heart stop beating, and ultimately lead to your death. Coral snakes are typically isolated creatures that inhabit unpopulated areas. Only biting as a last resort, these snakes will first and foremost attempt to flee. Their fangs, although deadly, are short and have a difficult time penetrating through thicker materials such as leather. Any penetration to the skin, however, needs immediate medical attention.


    If you are attacked by a venomous snake, seek medical attention immediately. Some snake bites, such as the Coral snake, require large doses of antivenom to prevent death. Without medical attention, the venom will paralyze the victim’s respiratory muscles and breating failure can happen in a matter of hours. If a snake does bite you, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following tips:

    • Remain calm.
    • Immobilize the bitten arm or leg, and stay as still as possible to keep the poison from spreading through your body.
    • Remove jewelry before you start to swell.
    • Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.
    • Cleanse the wound, but don’t flush it with water, and cover it with a clean, dry dressing.
    • Apply a splint to reduce movement of the affected area, but keep it loose enough so as not to restrict blood flow.
    • Don’t use a tourniquet or apply ice.
    • Don’t cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom
    • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol.
    • Don’t try to capture the snake, but try to remember its color and shape so you can describe it, which will help in your treatment.
    • Call 911 or seek immediate medical attention (especially if the area changes color, begins to swell, or is painful).

    Have you ever been bitten by a venomous snake? What did you do? Check out these Insight Articles to learn other great skills:

    To learn more about the different types of venomous snakes, check out these sources: * * * * *



    Posted In: Insight, Skills Tagged With: poisonous, venomous, snakes

  • Man Survives Snowy California Wilderness...& All he Wants is a Burger

    Missing Runner Survives Snowy California Wilderness and all he wants is a Burger!

    As darkness fell and temperatures dropped, Bob Root snuggled deeper into the shrubbery atop a cliff in the California wilderness. For two days in early April, he struggled to survive in the snow, searching for the trail he’d lost track of during a morning run.

    Root had set out early Sunday morning with fellow members of the ShadowChase Running Club, wearing only a light shirt, shorts, and running shoes. However, he soon found himself lost after running ahead to catch up with another group.

    Fox News reported that Root was able to survive on energy supplements and the small amount of water he carried with him. When the cold caused unbearable shaking, Root resorted to compressing and releasing his muscles, and sticking his fingers in his armpits to stay warm.

    When searchers finally found him, there was only one thing Root wanted after this ordeal—an In-N-Out burger.

    Heidi Ryan, a member of the ShadowChase Running Club believes, “Root’s training helped him survive. ‘He has great endurance and that obviously helped him,’”

    To read the rest of the story, check out Fox News’ article, “Authorities say runner who survived in snowy California wilderness craved an In-N-Out burger.”

    You never know when you’ll find yourself in an emergency. Whether you run off-trail, must evacuate your home in the middle of the night, or face some other crisis, it’s important to develop your own survival skills now so you can survive and stay calm in an emergency.

    Root’s training taught his body how to endure, which enabled him to outlast this emergency. Keeping your body fit is a skill that requires time, patience, and hard work, but which in the long run can help you survive in an emergency and have a better quality of life every day.

    Often times survival skills can even come in handy when you aren’t in an emergency. Activities such as campouts, backpacking trips, boating excursions, ski and snowboard outings, and other outdoor adventures are good examples of times when it may pay off to have first aid training, know how to keep yourself warm, or how to stay hydrated—just to name a few.


    Check out some of our Insight articles to develop your own survival skills:


    Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? What did you do? What survival skills do you think would be helpful during an emergency?


    Photo Courtesy of Fox News

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: survival skills, Survival, skills

  • Hunting Snares: Types and How to Build One

    |3 COMMENT(S)

    Understanding how to use snares for hunting can help you survive in an emergency

    In severe disasters, often times you end up relying on yourself and your own outdoor survival skills more than you might expect. It’s handy to have your supply of food storage and other gear, but what if a sudden tsunami sweeps it all away? What if an unexpected earthquake buries your supply in rubble or opens a sink hole and swallows it whole? (It’s rare—but it does happen). What if, for some reason, you can’t access your storage anymore? As a prepper, it’s important to prepare in all areas: food, water, gear, and skills.

    Hunting Basics: Traps and Snares

    Not everybody is a hunting expert with a Brush Gun slung over their shoulder, but everyone can, and should, be a snare/trap expert—or at least know the basics.

    When you have only yourself to rely on for food, a basic knowledge of snares and traps may prove to save your life.

    In an emergency, there’s always a chance that you will be out on your own for longer than three days. Think Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms hitting the Philippines in 2013; it killed nearly 6,000 people and displaced another 3.6 million. Or consider the tornadoes that swept through Oklahoma in May of 2013, destroying homes, damaging schools, and killing 24 people.

    Disasters like these happen all too often, making your knowledge of survival skills vital to staying alive.  Learn to build traps and snares out of basic items you can find after a disaster (or items you have stored in your emergency kit), and you’ll be better prepared to face the unexpected.

    Types of Traps and Snares

    A snare is one of the simplest types of traps you can make that allow you to catch animals or birds using a rope, wire, or cord. This post will tell you how to make a few types of snares to use in a survival situation. Typically it’s a good idea to place multiple traps around your area and build a variety of them—certain traps work better in certain locations or with specific species.

    Keep in mind that a lot of animal snares and traps are illegal and dangerous, such as the Pine Pitch Bird Cup trap, so make sure you check with your local authorities to determine whether or not your choice of snare is okay for hunting or if it should only be used in a real emergency situation.

    A Squirrel Noose

    This classic snare uses no bait and little supplies, letting you easily trap your prey right outside his home. All you need is wire. According to the Survivalist, you want 2-foot lengths of wire (22-gauge or 24-gauge wire works well) for each snare, which you’ll want about a dozen of.

    Squirrel Snare--Photo Courtesy of the Survivalist

    First, locate an area where squirrel activity is high. You can usually tell by either finding a squirrel nest in a tree or by signs of their activity on the ground (ex. a pile of pine cone shreds where one has sat and eaten). Once you’ve found your location, search out a log to rest against the tree. It’s preferable if there is already one that you can tell squirrels use to get up to their nests. If there’s not one already set, find your own.

    Using your 2-foot lengths of wire, make a small loop (about the circumference of a pencil) at one end of the wire. Feed the other end of the wire through that small loop making a noose. Pull it through until your snare loop is no bigger than 3 inches in diameter. Tie the other end of the wire around your log. Don’t save your snares, use dozens over the one log, making the nooses cover the tops, sides, and bottoms so your prey can’t escape.

    Learn how to build a Squirrel Noose from the experts at the Survivalist.

    Fixed Snare

    The Fixed Snare allows you to catch an animal and to keep it from running away. You can make a fixed snare out of practically any flexible, durable material (wire, a braided-steel cable, etc.) making it an ideal snare to use in an emergency situation. However, these snares are usually a one-time use trap as the wires tend to bend and weaken after an animal has been caught.

    Fixed Snare--Photo Courtesy of Outdoor Life

    For the fixed snare to work, simply create a small loop at one end of the wire (about the circumference of a pencil). Feed the other end of the wire through that small loop to create a type of noose. Place the ‘noose’ above a burrow or on a small game trail and wait. When an animal scampers by, pull the wire, which will tighten the noose and catch you a meal.

    Learn how to build a Fixed Snare from the experts at Outdoor Life.

    Deer Trail Snare

    Trapping a deer is tastier than other game you may find in a survival situation, and with this snare it’s pretty easy to do. Locate a path where deer travel frequently—look for animal tracks across a trail where shrubbery and bushes overlap into it. These trails are great to help hide your snare.

    For this snare, all you need is paracord, wire, and nature. Create a snare loop (as explained in the Fixed Snare and Squirrel Noose instructions) with your wire large enough for a deer’s head to fit through—roughly 12-24" in diameter and up to 3 feet high. Over the trail, locate two trees. Tie one end of your paracord to one tree and the other end to the second tree; hang your noose wire from it. Use the overhanging brush to disguise the wire hanging in the middle of the trail. When a deer walks through, his head will get caught in the noose and he’ll be trapped. This trap won’t kill the deer, but will hold him until you can get there to finish the job. 

    Greasy String Deadfall

    This bait-driven snare will catch and kill your game. This snare is great to use in survival situations because all you need is a deadfall (a weight, like a rock, that’s heavy enough to kill the animal on impact), a forked branch/stick, a sapling, and twine or paracord. All of these items can be found outdoors except for the twine—which you should put in your emergency kit ahead of time.

    Greasy String Deadfall Snare--Photo Courtesy of Outdoor Life

    With the Greasy String Deadfall, an animal is lured to your string covered in bait (that’s the ‘grease’). Your bait can be anything from other dead animals, berries, etc. You can decide what type of bait to use based on the type of animal you’re trying to catch. As your prey chews on the string, it will snap and the rock (a.k.a deadfall) will land on top of the animal.  

    Learn how to build a Greasy String Deadfall snare from the experts at Outdoor Life. 

    Bottle Fishing Trap

    The Plastic Bottle Fishing Trap is as simple as it gets when it comes to traps. This trap is ideal for catching small fish, which you can either eat or use as bait for another snare. All you need to make this trap is a water bottle and a sharp knife.

    Bottle Trap Snare--Photo Courtesy of Off Grid Survival

    Using your knife cut off the top of the water bottle and insert it back into the bottle, nozzle down. You can place insects or other bait into the bottle to attract the fish. Place the bottle in shallow water where you can hold it steady with surrounding vegetation. Small fish will swim into the bottle for the bait, but be unable to find their way back out.

    Learn how to build the Bottle Fishing Trap from the experts at OffGrid Survival.

    For additional snare ideas and tutorials, check out the sources below:


    Posted In: Insight, Skills Tagged With: preparedness skills, hunting snare, trap, snare, hunting, emergency preparedness supplies, emergency cooking, food, emergency preparedness, Survival, skills

  • Prepper Style New Year's Resolutions: Indoor Gear

    Each Monday in January, we’re sharing our Preparedness New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. If you’d like to make some Prepping Resolutions of your own, but don’t know where to start, borrow some of our resolutions or use this series to get some ideas.

    This week we are talking about Indoor Gear. Click here to check out Last week’s resolutions for Preparedness Skills.

    Prepper Style New Year's Resolutions: Indoor Gear

    Here is what our Emergency Essentials’ bloggers plan on purchasing as Indoor Gear items for 2014:

    New Year’s Resolution Prepper Style: Indoor Gear


    I resolve to get a Kitchen Plus 2000 Hand-Powered Food Processor. Based on its great customer reviews, I’m quite sure I’d use it often—not just on the rare occasion when our power goes out!


    I love the indoors. I really do. Even though I’m committed to learning more skills and spending time in the outdoors this year, climate-controlled spaces with running water and plumbing are really more my cup of tea. However, just because I love the indoors doesn’t mean the plumbing, A/C, furnace, or electricity will always be working—especially following a natural disaster.

    This year I’m buying some gear that will make hunkering down at home easier if some of the utilities or other comforts of home aren’t available… things like, ahem, a Tote-able Toilet, Double Doodie Bags, and packets of enzymes (it’s just reality). Because I’m a wimp when it comes to being cold, a Mr. Heater is in my future, in case the gas and/or power goes out in the winter. I also really love to cook, so I’ve got my eye on a Kitchen Plus 2000 for food processing without electricity and, if I can swing it, a Bosch. Because…who doesn’t want a Bosch? It’s the Rolls Royce of food processing, if you have power.


    A couple of summers ago, I went to church with my mom and the speakers talked about the importance of communication in an emergency. One of the speakers learned how to use a HAM radio and was part of the local HAM radio network. He gave a brief overview of how the HAM system works.

    For my New Year’s resolution for indoor gear, I’d like to study up on HAM radios and I’d also like to research and buy different phone apps and radios like the Kaito Voyager that can get access to NOAA and other weather/warning update systems that will help me to stay in communication and know what’s going on during an emergency if I have to shelter in place.



    This year, my husband and I will be condensing all of our “stuff”, especially in the kitchen. In 2014, I plan to purchase a Bosch Universal Plus Mixer with Blender Attachment and Cookie Paddles  with the Metal Whip Driver. This will help us prepare for when we move into a smaller apartment when my husband goes to grad school. Bosch Mixers do practically everything. Not only can you make bread, cake, and cookies, but, with the blender attachment, you can cream smoothies, malts (my specialty!), sauces, meringues, whipped toppings, and more. With the one mixer that does it all, I can get rid of my bulky stand mixer, toss out my low-power blender, and eventually, as I add on more attachments, get rid of the other bulky items that take up space in my kitchen.


    What types of indoor gear items do you want with you if you have to shelter in place? Let us know in the comments. 

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food stroage, emergency cooking, emergency preparedness, Sanitation, communication

  • How to Teach Preparedness to Toddlers

    |1 COMMENT(S)

    How to teach preparedness to toddlers

    After a year of teaching 3-4 year olds as a Sunday school teacher, I’ve learned it’s hard to get toddlers to sit down and focus for even just 5 minutes! This makes the task of teaching emergency preparedness skills . . . Um, how should I say it . . . DIFFICULT.

    So should toddlers be taught about emergency preparedness? Can it even be done?

    Teaching toddlers emergency preparedness skills is not a lost cause. It can be done, but strategically through repetition and play.

    Repetition and Strategic Play

    According to the MetLife Foundation’s pamphlet, “The Power of Play,” toddlers need movement, action, and repetition to understand the world around them. Repetition “helps children know what to expect [and] gives them a sense of security and control over their world. It also helps them master new skills and boosts their self-confidence.”

    Since toddlers rely on routine to understand the world around them, teaching emergency skills through repetition may be the key to helping toddlers not only to prepare, but to feel more confident when an emergency hits.

    How do I Teach My Toddler Using Repetition and Strategic Play?

    Build Your Own Emergency Kit Activity

    Get a backpack for your 3 or4-year-old. Tell them “this is your emergency backpack” (have them repeat the phrase ‘emergency backpack’). Let them know the backpack is special and should be used only when an adult tells them to use it.

    1. Use FEMA’s disaster preparedness coloring book pgs.4-6 to discuss with your child what an “emergency” or natural disaster is.  Explain it in a way they can understand and not feel overwhelmed about. (See coloring page below)

    FEMA Disaster Preparedness Coloring page

    2. After going through the coloring page, tell your child that they need their special backpack when there’s an emergency.

     3. Have a pile of items (maybe 2-3 for now, you can put more in the next time you play) to put into the emergency kit. Pull one item out at a time. Ask the child to identify or guess what the item is and what they would use the item for. If they don’t know, help them.  Let them put it in the backpack.

    CAUTION: Many of the items will be similar to what they already use daily so it’s important to specify that these are special pull-ups or a special sippy cup that they only use when an adult tells them to get the emergency backpack. Repeat this point and ask/tell them the appropriate time to use each item.


    4. Talk with your child about things they’d want to have in an emergency to help them feel happy. You’ll want to include some of their favorite snacks and a blanket or toy in the emergency kit.

    CAUTION: You may not want to put toys or blankets your child is attached to into the bag at the moment but take note of these things so you can bring them or get duplicates to put in later.


    5. After you put all the items in the backpack, explain to your child that “we need to put this backpack in a place where we can grab it quickly for an emergency.” Help your child select a place to store the bag, close to the front door.  Make sure they understand to only get this special backpack out when they are told by an adult.

    6. Show the toddler you have a special backpack as well, stored in the same place, or if it isn’t, go move the backpack to the same place. Show them some of the items in your kit.


    This is an activity that you’ll want to do often. You can do it when it’s time to replace items or you can do it once every three months, reiterating the same ideas and principles about preparedness. Review the items that are already in the bag, put them back in, and add other things as needed.


    Check out the Insight Article, “Special Considerations for Emergency Kits” to help you decide what to include in your toddler’s kit.

    And while you’re at it, check out our other articles about prepping for kids and teens:

    Prepare Teens for Real-Life Disasters  Using Young Adult Fiction

    Survival Skills for Kids: Outdoor Survival Games


    Have you tried to teach your toddler about preparedness? What did you do? What suggestions do you have for other parents or caregivers?  Let us know in the comments.

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: emergency preparedness, family, preparedness, skills

  • Survival Skills for Kids: Outdoor Survival Games


    Talking with kids about disasters, personal safety, and emergency preparedness could be an emotionally draining task for everyone involved. Playing outdoor survival games may be a good way to approach the subject in a fun, memorable, and safe environment.

    Before or after you play: Talk with your Kids

    Talk to your kids about the types of emergencies or personal safety situations they may encounter and what they can do to be safe. Create scenarios or role plays to act out and come up with solutions together. Here are some survival skills that you could talk to them about:

    • The Family Emergency Plan
    • Emergency Kits (how and when to use each item appropriately)
    • What to do if they are lost
    • What to do if a stranger approaches them
    • Outdoor Survival Skills (plant and animal track identification, building a shelter or fire, using a compass)

    Talking with them about these issues will help them to understand the importance of the games and the reasons why they are playing them. After playing the games, you can even ask them what they learned about emergency preparedness or survival.

    Rules and Regulations for Parents and Kids


    • Don’t try to cover everything in one day!
    • Teach one skill at a time and have a game to go along with each
    • Make sure that games are age appropriate
    • Make sure games are supervised by an adult


    • Show respect to the environment
    • Be kind to the gear that you use
    • Stay within the playing area 

    Let the Games Begin!

    Bases (ages 6-12+)

    This is like extreme hide and seek that teaches you how to use the environment as a natural hiding place (good for hiding from intruders, hiding for safety outdoors).

    Number of People: 6-8 people (the more people, the better!)

    How to play: Select one person to be the seeker (this could be the adult supervising). Seeker picks out 6 “bases” that all the hiders must touch/reach during the game within the playing area. The seeker stands at the last base. The goal for the hiders is to get to all the bases without being caught by the seeker.

    The seeker will count to a certain number each round, as hiders run to hide behind each base. Every round the number of counts will be different. As the seeker counts they can count very fast or very slow using the “dot system.” For example:

    • The seeker will announce the counts before they begin counting by saying “10 Slow” or “3 fast”
    • If the seeker wants to count slowly they will count saying—“one, dot, two, dot, three, dot”
    • If they want to count fast they will say “one, dot-dot, two, dot-dot, etc.”

    If the seeker sees anyone poking out from their hiding place after they are done counting, the seeker will call out their name, signifying that that person is out. The person who gets to the last base first without being seen is the winner.

    Other Survival Skills Games to Play:

    Naturalist Scattergories- (ages 6-12+)

    One player selects a category (example: types of trees), players sit in a circle and have ten seconds to say a type of tree. Answers can only be said once, the last player remaining in the circle wins. Best with 6 players, but can be played with 2. Can also be played using emergency items (name items in an emergency kit, items to bring on a camping trip, types of shelters, etc.)

    Shelter Skirmish- (ages 8-12+)

    After reviewing types of shelters and talking about how to make one, have players compete to make a lean-to shelter with items from the yard. After they work for a while, give them items to help such as a few strips of duct tape, some rope, or a poncho. See who can make the best shelter from a couple of items.

    For More Survival Games Check Out:

    For More Resources for Teaching Kids Survival Skills:

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: kids, emergency preparedness, Survival, Emergency plan

  • Emergency Shelter

    |2 COMMENT(S)

    When preparing for an emergency, it is recommended to set priorities. After food and water, shelter may be the next top priority in survival. A shelter will not only provide you with protection from the elements and possibly animals, but will provide you with warmth. The easiest way to be sure you will always have shelter is to carry it with you wherever you go. A light tent or tube tent that you can keep in your bag or pack is ideal.

    Emergency Shelter


    If you are in your car when you become stranded, stay there because the car is a great shelter, as long as it is not too hot outside. Be sure to leave windows open when it is above 65 degrees F so you won’t get heat exhaustion. While it may not always be practical to carry your shelter with you at all times, it may save you the trouble of having to build or find yourself shelter in the event you cannot return back to your home or another building.

    Building Your Own Shelter

    If you are in a situation where you need to build a shelter, there are several different types of shelters that you can build. If you have no materials with which to construct a shelter, you should make use of any cover or protection that is available, such as a cliff overhang, a cave, a gradient, and so forth that will help shield you from wind or rain. If you are in a completely open area, sit with your back to the wind and pile any sort of equipment behind you as a windbreaker.

    You can make use of any size of tree branches or even broken branches to give you some shelter from the wind. Make sure the branches are not so badly broken that they could cause bodily harm by falling. You can also make a shelter by tying a fallen branch to the base of another branch where it forks off from the trunk. Pine and fir trees make the best shelters of this sort because their leaves are the densest.

    Emergency Shelter: Branch and Pine Shelter

    A shallow depression in the ground can give you some shelter, especially if you cover the top with branches, logs, or sticks. If it is raining, however, you may find yourself in a pool of water if you do not deflect the rain from entering your shelter.

    You can use a large log or fallen tree trunk to make a shelter. Simply dig a shallow depression at the base of the trunk to give you more area. Then, lean logs, twigs, and branches up against the log to make a roof.


    Photo Courtesy of Wilderness College

    If you can find saplings, you can make a more permanent shelter. Just find two rows of saplings and clear the ground between them of any undergrowth, large rocks, etc. Then lash the two rows of saplings together at the top, bending them inward to form a canopy. You can make a roof by lashing together pine boughs and lashing them over the bent saplings. It would be ideal if you had a tarp with you to drape over the saplings and secure with rocks or logs at the base to keep it from blowing off.

    Emergency Shelter: Lean-to

    If you are partly prepared with a poncho, groundsheet, tarp, plastic sheeting, canvas, or a large plastic garbage bag, you can quickly and easily make a shelter, especially if you also happen to have rope. The only other things you need are rocks, branches, and dry grass. You can build a shelter next to a large rock, cliff, or a barrier of trees by using the object as one side of the shelter wall. Push a branch on either side of the object into the ground and string the rope between them. Drape the handy material that you have with you over the rope. Using more rope, tie the corners to four stakes and pound the stakes into the ground, forming the material into a tent.

    Emergency Shelter: Tarp Shelter

    Photo courtesy of Off the Grid News

    If you have no rope or twine, but you do have a piece of material, you can still make a good shelter. Instead of hanging a tarp over twine tied to two sticks, you can hang the tarp over a long stick suspended between the sticks. Use sticks as tent spikes or rocks to hold down the sides.

    You can also make a teepee if you have long, straight sticks, twine, and a piece of material. Use three or more angled support sticks tied where they cross to make a cone. Then cover it with material, birch bark panels, or fir branches. Leave an opening at the top for ventilation. Suspending your material at its center from a sturdy tree branch can make a simpler teepee. Peg the bottom edge with stick tent stakes.


    Photo courtesy of Wilderness College

    If you are in an area that has a lot of snow, you can dig out a shelter beneath the boughs of an evergreen tree. You can also dig a trench in the snow and make a roof by resting large slabs made of snow against each other at right angles. A snow cave can be dug in a drift of firm snow. After you smooth out the inside walls, make three floor levels: the highest for a fire, the next for your sleeping quarters, and the lowest to trap the cold and for storage. The lowest level is nearest to the door. Make sure you drive a hole through the roof for ventilation and to let the smoke out if you light a small fire inside your shelter. With all shelters, you should never sleep directly on cold ground. Instead, make yourself a bed out of grasses, leaves, small twigs, or whatever is handy to maintain your body heat.

    Emergency Shelter: Snow Cave

    Photo Courtesy of National Snow and Ice Data Center

    These are pretty simple shelters, but first look for a shelter that is already there, such as a cave or hollow. Just be aware of any wildlife. The very best way to be assured of a shelter is to be prepared with one. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

    For more information on survival see the SAS Essential Survival Guide. This book is written by Barry Davies and published by Lewis International Inc, 2001.


    Posted In: Insight, Shelter and Temperature Control

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